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The Deep End

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Deep End

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Jonathan Tucker
Director: Scott McGehee
Rated: R
RunTime: 99 Minutes
Release Date: August 2001
Genres: Drama, Gay/Lesbian, Suspense

*Also starring: Goran Visnjic, Peter Donat, Joshua Lucas, Raymond J. Barry

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

THE DEEP END, stunningly written, directed and produced by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, involves a murder cover-up and an associated blackmail scheme. In a performance that one hopes will receive an Academy Award nomination, Tilda Swinton plays Margaret Hall, an exasperated mother trying her best to save her son, who has gotten himself into trouble again. She demonstrates a palpable fear as she begins to do the unthinkable in order to shield her son from the police by covering up a murder.

In this realistic story, life in the town doesn't come to a standstill, and Margaret has the constant domestic responsibilities of caring for all three of her children. The birds still chirp and life goes on as she finds herself pushing way beyond any limits that she had ever her dreamed of. Her breathing becomes labored and her face flushed, but she, most of all, must keep up the appearance of normalcy.

We learn in a flashback that her oldest child, Beau (Jonathan Tucker), was recently injured in a car accident. Alcohol was involved, as was Beau's questionable new friend, Darby Reese (Josh Lucas). With Darby's little mustache, he looks like a classic villain. He also gets the story's best line, when he tells Beau that his mother knows what's going on between them. "She's a mother, not a moron," he tells him.

Beau is a good kid with a bright future. He'll be on his way to college shortly, but only if his mother is successful in shielding him from being arrested for murder.

To complicate the mother's woes, Alek Spera (Goran Visnjic) shows up on her doorstep demanding $50,000, or he will turn over a key piece of evidence to the police. He turns out not to be at all what you'd expect in a blackmailer. The entire story is told with quietness and subtlety, and his reserved but persistent character fits right in.

The press notes mention that Alfred Hitchcock chose Elisabeth Sanxay Holding's novel, "The Blank Wall," upon which the script is based, for his classic anthology, "My Favorites in Suspense." It is easy to see why Hitchcock was attracted to this tale. The best part of the story is that early on the audience learns a key to the mystery of which neither the son nor the mother is aware. And the son and the mother, who love each other but don't communicate well -- sound familiar? -- also have a completely different understanding of the basic facts of the case.

Set in a remote Tahoe house and filmed in cool blues and warm earth tones, the picture has an intriguing and inviting look. We stay glued to the screen, wanting to shout out suggestions to the characters and feeling like crying about the tragedy in which they have found themselves engulfed. It is filled with easy characters to empathize with.

As we see the time is winding down for the conclusion, we remain at a loss to figure out how this story can ever be wrapped up. What you will remember most after the movie is over is Tilda Swinton's amazing performance. One hopes that the members of the Academy will also remember it when it comes time to vote.

THE DEEP END runs 1:39. It is rated R for "some violence and language, and for a strong sex scene" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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